What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is a form of therapy used to help treat a wide range of mental health issues, substance abuse, and addiction.

This form of therapy works through a collaborative session between you and the therapist, where they will ask open-ended questions to hear your answer and learn your thought process. It also involves reflective listening, which means you are encouraged to respond to what the therapist says, and in turn, they will do the same. This will make you comfortable discussing your mental health and addiction experiences that may have led to this point.

It is a bit of a cliche found in TV and movies for a therapist to ask you how something makes you feel, but that is a key part of reflective listening. Assigning emotions to past experiences, good and bad, helps you understand your mental health and addiction to help you recover and move on.

One of the most important parts of motivational interviewing is positive reinforcement. The therapist gives you positive feedback when you implement a coping mechanism into your life or complete small, manageable goals designed as part of your treatment.

Positive reinforcement creates a good connection between the work you have done and the praise you are given. You may be provided with motivational interviewing sessions that are tailored to your situation, but some common affirmations you are asked to say when you are struggling are:

  • I am loved
  • I am enough
  • I am brave
  • I am stronger than this

Part of motivational interviewing is changing how your brain responds to certain triggers, and avoiding resorting to the use of drugs or alcohol. Having you or even a loved one or therapist praise you for engaging in healthy activities and avoiding substance abuse, hopefully creates a link in your brain. This also is done if you are particularly struggling with your mental health as well as substance abuse.

Think of it as a healthy distraction to keep you away from unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol.

The Principles of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse and other mental health issues has a few key principles. These principles lay out what motivational interviewing is trying to accomplish and how it helps patients recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. These principles include:

Empathy: Therapists create a non-judgmental and empathetic atmosphere where you feel understood and supported. This will help you to feel understood and listened to.

Develop Discrepancy: This involves helping you to recognise the discrepancies between your current behaviours and your desired goals or values. By highlighting these inconsistencies, you are more motivated to consider change.

Roll with Resistance: Instead of confronting resistance head-on, motivational interviewing encourages therapists to avoid arguments and maintain a collaborative stance. This reduces defensiveness and opens the door to productive conversations. It helps you to relax and actually want to talk to your therapist.

Support Self-sufficiency: The end goal of motivational interviewing is for you to be able to look after yourself. To challenge your own behaviours and fix them on your own. Motivational interviewing teaches you to make this positive change.

How Can MI Be Used in Addiction Treatment?

The important thing to remember with an alcohol or drug addiction is that the treatment is a lifestyle change. So motivational interviewing and substance abuse is a way to learn how to best do this lifestyle change.

For example, with motivational interviewing for substance abuse, a therapist will try to tackle the cravings you experience for alcohol or drugs.

Cravings are your brain wanting to use drugs or alcohol. This can be caused by a trigger due to using substance abuse as a way to self-medicate poor mental health. Motivational interviewing will try to deal with this in a few different ways.

First, the therapist will try to make you feel comfortable enough so that through conversations together, you can identify the triggers for your cravings.

Then you and your therapist will discuss ways to replace your cravings with healthier coping mechanisms. This could involve distracting yourself or using your affirmations to centre yourself and strengthen your mental health that way.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse Treatment

Motivational interviewing has great benefits for treating substance abuse. It allows you to have a safe space to open up and, very, importantly set small achievable goals. These goals can be as simple as counting how many days you have managed to stay sober or involve more life-changing ones such as finding a job or moving into a nicer living situation.

These goals give you something to work towards and achieve and are often used alongside other addiction treatments.

It also gives you generally better mental health that is focused on keeping you centred and present no matter what you are going through. It encourages healthy living and regular upkeep to continue to make progress.

This makes motivational interviewing especially useful for treating substance abuse as it is a lifestyle change. It is a long-term change that you can use for the rest of your life to help you avoid relapsing.

Is Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse Effective?

Research has found that motivational interviewing is very helpful for treating substance abuse. It is especially effective for alcohol abuse when provided in a specialist alcohol rehab centre.

Alcohol abuse, especially is easy to relapse as alcohol is such a big part of many cultures. Having a set of tools to help you avoid those situations and ease your cravings is incredibly helpful.

What Are the Limitations of Motivational Interviewing?

There is no one cure for all mental health issues or substance abuse. Finding the right therapy for you is a process. It takes time, and it often requires professional help to get you on the road to recovery. Motivational interviewing is great for giving your tools and some support, but that’s not all you need. You often need other treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, holistic therapy, support groups and maybe even prescribed medications.

Mental health and addiction are complicated conditions. They take time and effort to deal with, and unfortunately, while motivational interviewing is a wonderful tool for treating substance abuse, it can’t be the only option used. Get in touch today to learn more or phone us for rehab treatment on 0800 012 6088.